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School’s Out For Summer

The school holidays are upon us now and while the kids are demob-happy the summer break can be a real headache for working parents.

“So what?” You might say. “Their kids. Their problem”. But it’s definitely in employers interests to do more. The number of parents leaving the workforce to seek more flexibility by working for themselves is ever increasing. A recent survey of 2000 working people in the UK by on-demand staffing app Coople found that one in 5 parents had missed a significant moment in their child’s life because of work. A even more worryingly, 11% said working late and not ‘switching off’ had distanced them from their children.

So with the long school holidays looming, we’ve pulled together a handy checklist on how small business can (reasonably) support parents this summer:

  1. Flexible Hours: Every employee has the right to request flexible working – whether this be flexible hours or location. In both cases, this request must be made in prescribed form and employees are entitled to only one request a year. Fixed office hours can be impractical for parents during the holidays. And the flexibility to work when they want to (often in the early morning or evening) can be a god-send.
  2. Flexible Locations: This does’t always mean working from home. In fact, if the kids are there it’s often the last place parents want be if they’ve got work to do. Working in a location closer to home, however, with a shorter commute could really help. Professional work spaces are popping up all over the place and are a great option here. Not only will they have excellent broadband they can be a valuable networking opportunity too. With both flexible hours and flexible locations, it’s important both parties are clear if this is a permanent of temporary change. If it’s for the short term, be sure the time frame is understood.
  3. Parental Leave: Staff that have worked for their employer for more than one year can ask for unpaid parental leave to help with childcare. Parental leave generally allows each parent to take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave per child before the child’s 5th birthday. This leave must be taken in blocks of one week and in theory should be requested 21 days in advance (although you may choose to be lenient here). If employees fall within these guidelines, you’ve got little choice but to let them take it unless there are sound business reasons why not that would stand up to scrutiny at a tribunal.
  4. Time Off For Dependents: Any employee (however long they have worked for you) can ask for “time off for dependents” to deal with emergencies. This would be unpaid and whilst there’s no set time, if its regarding a childcare issue 1-2 days would be reasonable, before it then becomes Parental Leave (above).
  5. Summer Childcare Guide: There are often lots of summer childcare options available locally but sometimes it can take hours of research to get all the information. A great task for the work experience chap if ever there was one. Make such information easily available to employees on the intranet or noticeboard and who knows, if there’s significant interest you might be able to negotiate a discount or even provide minibus transport from the office and back.

Holiday requests are likely to be coming in thick and fast. Remember to re-circulate your Holiday Policy so everyone knows the score and read ‘Is Your Workplace Beach-Ready?’ for straight-talking advice on how to keep everything running smoothly over the next few months…..

Want some help on how better to manage the team? Book here to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photocredit:  Diana Susselman

How To Motivate Your Sales Team (Without Just Focussing On The Money)

We all know that a motivated sales team is critical to the success of any business. The relationships they build with your clients and customers create the foundation of your business — not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

So how can you motivate your sales team without just focussing on money? There are many different ways to motivate a sales team. Some companies use a traditional sales structure with set targets and commission paid in line with reaching these. Others go the “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards. All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets: they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

In the past traditional rewards of lower base salaries with a commission structure sitting alongside it (typically based on number of sales) have been commonplace. The majority of salespeople are used to a system that rewards only the top sales performers, however the tide is turning (and arguably has already turned). More recent trends show that employers are becoming much more savvy and imaginative when it comes to rewarding their sales teams.

Some companies are now following the trend of using reward systems that reward the individual that tries the hardest. Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said. ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

You might think that a scheme like this could detract from your biggest sellers, but don’t worry, managed properly it won’t and it will simply act as a motivator to those who have the potential to get to a top spot in your business by providing them with recognition as they progress through the business.

Create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week) Common rewards for reaching sales goals or benchmark include leaving work early, attending a happy hour or maybe giving a trip to reward success over a long period of time.

Fun in small spurts can be just as rewarding as the financial rewards you offer. Rick Hanson, VP at Hewlett- Packard has said that his company uses Fantasy Sales Team to award points to “players” (sales reps) for carrying out their daily tasks, like increasing a pipeline or closing a deal. The unique twist is that the reps don’t just compete as individuals, Hanson said: they build teams just as in fantasy football. “Reps earn points for their FantasySalesTeam based on the performance of their chosen peers and friends, and this creates an environment of encouragement and pressure amongst the players” he said. “To win the game, they must rely and push on each other to perform. Even more exciting is just how many reps in our sales organization can, and want to, participate”.

Personally in businesses where I have worked you ‘hear’ when a sales representative succeeds. For instance, a closed deal results in the playing of a song of the salesperson’s choice, and sometimes a subsequent team dance (!).

Create Competition and take advantage of your team members’ natural competitiveness as a way to engage your people, boost morale, and make work more fun. Competitions are also excellent for improving performance during slow periods. Focus on a strategic business goal that you all need to meet. Devote a wall in the office to the contest, and post news about wins, display real-time updates and standings, and celebrate achievements. To make it more interesting and valuable, offer a small prize or reward.

Ask your team members what they would like to receive, or use your own judgment to come up with something creative and remember that it doesn’t have to cost the earth!

Take time to celebrate the good times and recognize success publicly. Jeremy Hudson, director of sales at Logic Supply’s motivational secret is “When the wins come, we celebrate them. It can be as simple as a shout- out on the sales floor, an email message to the whole company to recognize the efforts, or on occasion I will request that the CEO take them out for lunch.” Getting the ‘big dog’s’ involved in some of the rewards and incentives can work wonders as your sales team are likely to value some dedicated face to face time with a Director.

Career progression is a simple cost effective way to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards often work, for some sales employees, the ultimate reward is the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team and so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion (download our complimentary E-book on rewards for more information on intrinsic and extrinsic here).

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to their staff. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviours, I would recommend that you try it, from my experience these types of incentives can make a real difference.

Try to think outside the box and try simple, one off recognition schemes. Colleen Stanley, president of SalesLeadership Inc., believes that email is nice, but a handwritten note is much more meaningful because it shows you’ve taken time to find a card and write a personal note. “I have seen cards sitting on a salesperson’s desk, however, have never seen an email propped up.”

You could also consider sharing content across your sales team. If you have intellectually curious salespeople on your team share with them a cool book, podcast, video or blog – something that you have personally found helpful and really enjoyed. Just be sure to pick topics that are relevant to the jobs or your industry to keep it ‘on point’!

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are just some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas. By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

For further information or advice and support on motivating your sales team join us at www.thehrhub.co.uk.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Work Placement

The idea of giving young people the opportunity to get a taste of the world of employment can be an appealing one, for many reasons: it can strengthen your reputation; give you an immense amount of satisfaction; ensure that you’re playing your part in creating a skilled workforce for the future. Not to mention give you an extra pair of hands.

But it can be a complete minefield. I recently went to take on an apprentice as was shocked by the sheer bunch of paperwork I had to complete to do this properly. When you get down to the nitty gritty though, it can become tempting to ditch the idea completely. The process traditionally involves a ton of red tape and jumping through hoops, so however good your intentions, it can sometimes just seem like too much hassle.

Things are changing though, and many business leaders can see the value of creating opportunities for young people. Here, we explain what you need to know to move forward.

Step outside the notion of a one-week placement

Back in the day, work experience would involve young people taking a week out of formal education to work a 9-5 role with a local employer. Nowadays, things are much more flexible.

Could you offer site visits to schools? Could you, or a member of your staff, offer mentoring? Could you offer evening or weekend opportunities? Thinking outside of the box could prove to be better for your business, and for the young people who you’ll be working with.

Think beyond making the tea and collecting the post

No one’s expecting you to hand over the running of your company, and throwing your placement right in at the deep end could prove to be overwhelming. Ease them in gently, but be sure to give them real opportunities and challenges to get their teeth stuck into during their time in your business.

Keep in mind that a young person can bring a fresh perspective to the table, as well as energy and enthusiasm. You might just stumble upon your next big business idea.

Draw up a plan

It makes sense to think about how your young person will spend their time when they’re in your business. Of course, they’ll need to know what hours they’re working and where they need to show up on the first day, but thinking a little wider than this can set you up for success.

How will their time be filled? Can they shadow various members of staff? Can they get involved in different projects? Is it possible to offer them an element of choice, so they can learn more about the areas they’re interested in? Be flexible, but be sure to have at least the bare bones of a plan.

Communication, communication, communication

Communication is always important in the workplace, and if you want to offer a successful placement, then it’s absolutely essential. Start by having an initial conversation with the school so you understand what they’re expecting.

On the very first day of the placement, arrange an informal chat with the young person so you can understand what they want to take away from the process. On the final day, provide them with feedback. And of course, invite them to share their own feedback about the experience. You could take away some really valuable insights into how your business is operating.

At this stage, you may well have questions about how all of this could work for you. Perhaps you’ve got unique challenges that you need to overcome, or you’d just like to chat with an experienced professional about getting your work placements right first time. Book here to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

 Photo credit: Olu Eletu

Are You Riding The Silver Wave?

New data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that over 10 million over-50s are now in employment. The potential reasons could include the fact that the state pension age has increased, and we’re also living longer than we were just a couple of decades ago. The fact of the matter is that we have more older people in the workplace, and as employers, we have a duty to make sure that we’re supporting our staff and ensuring that diverse needs are being met.

So what exactly do you need to know about your responsibilities? And how can you tap into the opportunity that exists when it comes to harnessing the skills of the older generation? Here, we share some of our top tips for making sure that your business is riding the silver wave.

Don’t write off older staff when it comes to learning and development

There’s often the assumption that older people have one eye firmly on retirement, so there can be a tendency to neglect learning and development provisions, and keep the bigger opportunities for younger employees. This is not only potentially discriminative. It’s also extremely short sighted.

Invest in your older workers, and you could see many benefits. Be aware of the skills that they may be lacking, and focus on what you can do to ensure that they’re brought up to speed, and can continue to contribute to the bigger picture.

Consider reverse mentoring initiatives

This offers a great way to improve knowledge sharing all around and has come to the fore recently, with companies including Ernst and Young using it to tackle sexism in the workplace. Essentially younger (in this case female) workers, are partnered with older colleagues to help change attitudes on recruitment and workplace diversity.

Younger staff, who tend to have less overall experience but more confidence with technology, could share their knowledge with their older colleagues. It’s easy to jump to the assumption that you need to fork out for formal training, and it’s true that this is sometimes necessary, but there are many other options that can be just as effective.

Be aware of the needs of older workers

At every different life stage, there are things that employers need to be aware of when it comes to making sure that they’re supporting their staff and giving them a degree of flexibility to help them to meet their needs. One thing that you might want to consider for older staff is how you can support them when it comes to their caring responsibilities.

Many older workers will want to spend time with grandchildren, and taking this into account could keep them motivated and engaged. As a rule of thumb, offering flexibility, as long as you keep operational requirements in mind, can be great for morale and motivation.

Our workforces are becoming more diverse, and this can be a wonderful thing for your business. But you do need to take the time to make sure that you’re fulfilling your responsibilities, and doing all you can to keep your policies and practices fit for purpose.

If you want to ensure that you’re getting things right, get in touch. We can carry out a review of where you are, and what changes may need to be made to keep your business thriving. To do so book your free consultation here.

You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Deborah Swain – Silver Surfer

Could You Be Guilty Of Ghosting Your Customers?

I had several run-ins recently with a business provider I’ve been using for a couple of years now: changes to my account not made, incorrect invoicing issued multiple times, threats to cut my service and the final nail in the coffin…….deafening silence to all communications.

I have been a staunch advocate of their business. I’ve even recommended them to several other businesses. But I’m actively searching for a replacement as the value I get from them has been outweighed by the lack of value I feel in return. I don’t want to do this particularly: it’s a pain for me, it’s time consuming and it will impact on my own business short term.

I believe that the people who collectively have provided this terrible service are all very nice individually. And I have nothing against them personally. But their business is a prime example of what can happen as your business grows and you don’t take customer service seriously or pay attention to what can fall between the cracks and how this impacts on your customer’s journey.

Most leaders would probably be quick to say that it isn’t a problem in their operations & that for one or two small customers to be upset is one of the things you have to suck up when you’re growing fast. But is that a wise thing to bank on? Can you honestly say that you couldn’t make some improvements? Working on upping your game in this area is the type of activity that could have a quick and tangible impact on your reputation, not to mention you profits – so it’s worth taking some time to pinpoint potential issues and get a handle on them.

If you’re experiencing issues in your customer service and aren’t sure where to start fixing it, then take a look at the following areas and wade right in….

Your staff don’t know what good service looks like

First of all, ask yourself whether your team even know what’s expected from them. In your mind, you no doubt have a clear vision of how you want your team to handle queries and sales. But have you communicated this to the right people, and have you created accountability? Accountability is different to a rigid hierarchy: you don’t need one to have the other. But it’s vital that your teams fully understand what outstanding service looks like, and when they’re hitting the mark. You might be amazed by how easily problems can be avoided when you take the time to share your expectations.

You haven’t invested in training

Training isn’t about talking your staff through some PowerPoint slides, or sharing some broad theory about how things should be done. It’s about giving your team the practical skills they need to deliver results. If it’s been awhile since you offered customer service training to your workers, then you could have identified your main problem.

Your staff don’t care about your overarching aims and objectives

Let’s take a step back for a second. Perhaps you feel confident that your staff understand what good service looks like, and you know that you’ve offered quality training, If problems still exist, then you need to consider the possibility that you have some deeper cultural issues that need to be addressed. Having your staff onboard with what you’re trying to achieve in the broader sense is essential if you want to continue to grow.

When you know that changes need to be made, the road ahead can seem daunting. You don’t have to do it on your own though. It makes sense to work with a professional with a proven track record. After all, don’t you want results as quickly as possible?

So when it comes to fixing the problems that are holding back your workforce, get in touch with us for an initial chat about how we might be able to work together: hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048.

You’ll walk away from your free consultation with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photo Credits: Tom Margie

When I grow I want To Be An Astronaut: Supporting Your Team in their Own Dreams ( Whatever they may be)

The first time I came across true personal development was during a stint working with a public sector organisation on the fringes of healthcare. The organisation in question – which had around 60 employees – gave each team member £250 per year to put towards any personal development activity they wanted. And yes, that was any personal development they wanted: from basket weaving to tennis coaching and beyond….

Genius I thought. What a fabulous way to get people interested in learning as a process itself. Many questioned the link between this and any actual benefit to the business though. After all, how the hell do you get a Return on Investment from activities where the output seems just to be a few wonky pots proudly displayed in the office and anecdotes of someone’s ‘vastly improved’ back-hand….

This was quite some time ago however, and it’s a trend which has been gaining more ground recently. Only a few weeks ago, I heard on the radio show I was listening to, how all their employees had been given a set of classes to sign up for which included anything from art to singing.  So assuming that their management team wasn’t doing this with the sole purpose of unearthing the next Tracey Emin or Emili Sande (although you never know!), the evidence for the business benefits of activities must be there.

Whilst many companies might not see the benefits in encouraging pure personal development, aligning an individual’s personal interest development with that of your business is really the holy grail of learning & development at work. Simply allowing your team time off to do something different is likely to make them happy in itself. But helping someone develop in an area which they are interested in, can increase someone’s new motivation to life in general, which will in turn translate into greater motivation at work.

Dreaming Never Hurt Anybody

Cook is family run company based in my own neck of the woods. Over the last 10 years it has built its reputation on providing not just fantastic home-cooked frozen food, but by caring for those who work for and with them. Each year,  they offer up a handful of places into their very own Dream Academy: a personal development programme with a difference. One which brings their dreams to life be they personal or professional. From losing weight to even moving jobs (!), those who aspire to joining the academy jot down their desire each year and a lucky few they have catered for many employee’s desires over the years they have been running it, helped along by their own personal coach they call the Dream Manager (How cool is that?!).

Sadly the original personal development programme I was involved with came to a stuttering end not long after I’d left when someone had objected to their wine tasting course not being approved. Apparently the powers that be felt that someone might draw connections between public funds being used on an alcohol course and that risk of potentially ending up on the front cover of the Daily Mail was greater than the risk of holding back their development. And maybe there was something in that. But it’s a shame they couldn’t think of a way round it, as the implications were much greater than preventing one member staff from learning how to tell the difference between a Cote du Beaune and a Shiraz.

TheHRhub: sign up here for advice, support and tools for SME’s

p.s – For tips and tricks on reward and recognition to help your business rocket, download our free ebook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME

Photo Credit: Native American Dream Catcher by Image Catalog